Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Summary: Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.
Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

Kim's Review: This book surprised me. I was expecting a sad book in which a girl spends the entire time coping with her death and trying to move on. Don't get me wrong - there is some of that, and it's certainly not a bad thing, but I didn't expect the plot to be so...normal.

Instead of Liz spending the whole 277 pages wallowing and wondering about what her life could have been, this novel was about her adjusting to Elsewhere (a strange sort of heaven) and pretty much leading an average life there. She gets a job, adopts a dog, has problems with friends, and falls in love, just like you would expect in a novel taking place on Earth. While I was surprised, it was a welcome change.

There were a lot of other things about Elsewhere that made it stand out as well. It's written in third person omniscient POV, where the reader gets to hear what all the characters are thinking pretty much at all times. I don't think I've ever read a book in this point of view (the only time I remember is when we were learning about it in English class!), but it was really interesting and different, and I liked it.

With the uncommon point of view came segments of the story being told by dogs. That's right, in Elsewhere, humans can learn to understand canine and productively communicate with them. The prologue is actually told from the POV of Liz's dog. The best part is that it's actually done well! It doesn't sound corny or campy, which is what I was half-expecting. Kudos to Gabrielle Zevin for being able to tell a story through a whole 'nother species' point of view!

This book does offer a lot to think about when it comes to life after death and what goes on, but it's also a relatively light-hearted and enjoyable read. Give it a chance, and I'm confident you won't be disappointed. :)

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